Magicians, History and Corn Dogs

Kellar's Latest IllusioinYou can ask anyone, what does Inside Magic like?

Those in the know will say, usually with a chirpy tone, cool magic stuff from magic history and corn dogs.

Taking the list in order, we look constantly for cool magic stuff from magic history.  We have a key to the city given to Harry Blackstone Jr. given by the mayor of Dearborn, Michigan.  We have posters and pictures of great magicians through the years.  Some of our fondest memories have been eating corn dogs.

Other great memories have been talking to older magicians about the magicians they have seen or with whom they worked.

We recalled a wonderful conversation about Harry Blackstone, Jr. (the impetus for our mention of my souvenir) and how compassionate he was for his staff and assistants.  He certainly did not need to be – he was the star and his show was a hit.  But he was.

We have a multi-page letter handwritten by Doug Henning in response to our question, “how can a magician who is only 12 make it as a professional.”

Not surprisingly, he did not tell us to get an agent, make posters, berate theater managers; but to practice the art, learn the rules of being a magician and have fun.

We work in a wonderful art.  People genuinely love to be entertained and fooled and corn dogs.

We provide two out of the three and the more we do it, the more entertaining it becomes for us and our audience.

We wonder how the younger generation learns about our grand history.  Perhaps there are still meetings over an occasional corn dog where mustard-stained young performers can hear stories of Willard the Wizard, Thurston, Houdini, Kellar, Dante and our favorite, Harry Blackstone, Jr.

Although the image is not of Harry Blackstone, Jr. or any deep-fried hot dog, we think the poster used by Kellar displaying his “latest” illusion of “self-decapitation” is illustrative of our wonderful history.  No one – at least no one we have seen in the last 20-years has performed “self-decapitation” and even decapitation of others has fallen into disfavor (correctly in our humble opinion) due to world events.  But his poster was drawn in sketch form, colored in, placed on lithographic machinery and literally inked with several different passes – one for each color – leaving a space to make the poster applicable to the town or setting where Kellar would soon perform.  How wonderful.

You can find wonderful posters of magicians and non-magicians throughout history at the Library of Congress for your viewing and enjoyment.  We hope you do.

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Inside Magic Image of a Magic Show

Inside Magic has been online since 1992 or 1996 depending on what you mean by online.  We began as a monthly newsletter sent to subscribers obtained through Boys Life classifieds and converted to CompuServe,  Genii (the GE electronic service – not the magazine) and then the Internet. 

We advertised through Yahoo at a cost of $140.00 (1990s dollars) and later advertised through the new and unproven Google search service.  Much less cost but at the start, many less clicks. 

There were months when the clicks were three or five.  But it was cheap so we kept with it.  We advertised on magic websites – there were very few back in the early days but Meir Yedid was a dependable site.   People trusted him, they trusted his opinion on magic and enjoyed his very honest description of magic for sale or for viewing. 

They still do.  

In the old days, Inside Magic had a news side and a catalog side.  We would never review tricks we sold – because that seemed improper. 

Eventually the catalog side faded from existence.  We sold the bulk of our remaining inventory on eBay and Amazon and focused on the news and reviews side of the website.  We liked that.  Selling magic is a tough business.  The margins are tight, there are so many sites now selling effects, and we are softies.  We can’t stand to disappoint people.  We did what no sane magic seller does, we gave refunds – even if the trick came back beat up and without instructions.  It just seemed fair.

Bright we are not.  We love magic and want to do nothing that could or possibly could interfere with an individual’s enjoyment of this great art.  That doesn’t make us ethical or smart – just us.  Similarly we would never interview or review a performer or trick/act we didn’t like.  We want to be positive always.  Maybe we didn’t like the trick or the act or the performer but that didn’t mean it/he/she/they weren’t great in the eyes of others. 

Additionally,  there are so many young performers and their first crack at getting publicity is through a review.  How terrible for the first review to be negative or mean.  We got our first review in a newspaper and it was horrible.  The trauma on a 12-year-old’s psyche is so significant.  We got later, more positive reviews but the first one stung and made getting back  on stage difficult.

All of this is coming to a point.


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Houdini: The Pinball Game. Heaven on Four Legs

Inside Magic Image of Houdini Pinball Back GlassThere are three things we love: Magic, Houdini and Pinball Machines.

Imagine our glee to learn that our triad of triumph has been combined in one device.

The brand new Houdini Pinball machine from American Pinball Inc. in Streamwood, Illinois is a trifecta in our books.   It comes with special Houdini-esque obstacles and features that just makes us smile like a fool in a ball pit.

Consider:

  • Three Magnets to Control Houdini’s Magic (Remember the Thurston one had one magnet)
  • Over 20″ Launch into Houdini’s Steamer Trunk (Three more inches than a normal launch into a steamer trunk in non-pinball games)
  • Animated & Interactive Theatre Marquee (The glass is like a show.  No wooden numbers turning with a clunk and bump)
  • API Theater Stage  (The API Theater was a fine theater on the Bilbox Vaudeville Circuit later taken over by the forerunner of the Keith system)
  • Real Wood Laser Engraved Planchette (Like at the country fair where they carve your family name except this is for disembodied spirits through an Ouija board)
  • Theatre Spotlights (Of course.  Always shining from the front to enhance angles)
  • Custom Padlock & Gear Bumper Tops w/ Chains (Our first movie  made in Hollywood was coincidentally called “Custom Padlock and Gear Bumper Tops and Chains)
  • 6 Balls (because they are related to Houdini, likely larger than other pinballs)
  • 5 Multiballs (This is a quantum anomaly or simply five balls.  We prefer to think the former)
  • 10 Stage Modes including Straight Jacket Multiball (If you have never played pinball in a straitjacket you don’t know what you’re missing – but that’s okay because there are probably few that have so it’s not like you’re being left out of some really cool  group)
  • 3 Magician Modes (What? Who else would they put with Houdini? Kellar, maybe.  Dante, c’mon. Carrot Top, not even a magician)
  • 1 Master Magician Mode (You get to play as the Master Magician plays – includes cape between well-manicured fingers the bumper buttons)
  • 5 Secret Mission Combo Modes (Likely as H.H.)
  • 5 Houdini Silent Movie Modes (We would totally do voice-overs for the silent dialogue to compliment our playing)
  • 5 Jail Escape Hurry Ups (In our book, every Jail Escape is a Hurry Up.  We reviewed Houdini’s notes and found very little evidence that he trifled during any escape, especially a Jail Escape)
  • 1 Video Mode  (As far as we know, there was no video back in Houdini’s time – maybe he did a YouTube that we didn’t see yet)
  • Milk Can Playfield Multiplier

Imagine a game without a Milk Can Multiplier?  You cannot, can you?  It’s impossible.  Houdini wrote to his brother Theo “Dash” Weiss in 1919 “Now that I have the Milk Can and understand it’s multiplying effect, I cannot imagine the world without it.”  We have no word what response Theo provided his brother but likely it was along the lines of “Nope, I sure can’t, brother!”

The device is so pretty and so perfect, we just want to touch it and buy it.  It is more likely that we will touch it one day but not own it so soon.  Our magic friend Keiser got to try it out at the Arcade Expo in beautiful Banning California this weekend.  As he spoke about the Houdini machine and unrolled the special poster he brought us, we smiled beyond capacity; leading to slight tears to the corners of our well-chapsticked lips.  We were so enthralled, we worried that our special anti-enthralling medications were not working or, at best, overwhelmed.  But it was apparent, the medication was just whelmed – not overly or underly.

The machine cost a mere $7,000.00 USD ($6,999).  At $7.50 a show (assuming a complete sell-out of the back of the room Svengali Decks and knock-off Bullet Catch Trick with Nerf Guns), it would only take us a bunch of shows and lots of balloon animals (and we can only do poodles and giraffes (or poodles who look like giraffes or swords), to make enough to buy one.

Consequently, we are hoping one of our readers will decide to contribute the machine to us and perhaps through in some AC Generator wiring so we can play indoors.  We were going to do a Go-Fun-Me page but when we went to the site, it didn’t seem like a place one could raise money.  It seemed a little provocative.  We erased it from the computer and were thankful we didn’t use our own computer to search and find the site.

See or play the game, we would love to hear your experiences – and perhaps touch your hand to get some of your special luck.

We thank Keiser for his poster and his constant ability to fool us and be patient with our bad acting when we pretend to know exactly what he has done.

Check out the Pinball Machine with Everything here: https://www.american-pinball.com/games/houdini/; download the tech details here: https://www.american-pinball.com/games/houdini/docs/Houdini-Service-Manual.pdf; and the promotional materials here: https://www.american-pinball.com/games/houdini/Houdini-Pinball-Flyer.pdf

 

 

Ben Young is Up and Coming

Ben YoungMagician Ben Young has a fancy website, a long list of appearances and likely does a fair amount of advertising for his services but for our money, nothing beats the kind of press he received from a friend in the recent edition of The Tullahoma News.

Yes, he has been on Penn & Teller’s Fool Us and befriended by some of the top performers in our craft.  But for some reason we are more moved by accolades bestowed by a former classmate.

Erin McCullough’s column in the Tennessee news source inspires us to track Mr. Young on our upcoming visit to Las Vegas. That beats a Yelp or Trip Advisor review in our estimation.

Ms. McCullough knew Mr. Young from their time together in school and expresses surprise and delight in learning of her friend’s success since leaving the area.

“Now, I had known Ben was talented, but I had no idea of the depth of his craft until I saw it in person. If you’ve never been able to see a magic show, please do yourself a favor and go seek one out, because they are incredible!”

Apparently they studied Italian together in college and, sure, he would perform a few effects for fellow students but Ms. McCullough never saw him in full stage magician mode. Now, Mr. Young is beginning (or part way into) a tour of Air Force bases and cannot be confused with the talented hobbiest. He is a full-blown magician.

We’ll be in Las Vegas when Hollywood shuts down for the holiday break and will seek out Mr. Young — assuming he isn’t on tour — solely because of the apparently unsolicited but heartfelt endorsement of Ms. McCullough.

You can check out Ms. McCullough’s article here: http://www.tullahomanews.com/around-the-water-cooler-81/

Visit Mr. Young’s website here: http://www.benyounglive.com/

Magician David Blaine Comes to Madonna’s Aid

Inside Magic Image of David BlaineDavid Blaine: Magician, Stunt Performer, Bullet Catcher and now family counselor for the stars.  News reports tell us that Magician David Blaine has been called to help Madonna’s relationship with her son.

Young Rocco Ritchie has been hanging with his pop, filmmaker Guy Ritchie in London, England.  Young Master Ritchie has been living with dad since his two very famous parents buried the hatchet and settled the custody battle that took off in earnest when the son refused to return to live with his mom after winter break in the U.K.

Madonna shared an image of her brood including her son and Magician David Blaine in beautiful Gstaad, Switzerland.

She captioned the image “Swiss Family Robinson !!”

The gossip pages say “Blaine, who is close with Rocco and Madonna, has been helping mother and son repair their relationship.”

Perhaps Mr. Blaine will bring a sense of maturity to the proceedings.  We learned last year, Madonna previously voiced feelings via image by posting a picture of herself wearing a black hooded jacket. A crown and the word “B**tch” were drawn on top of the snap in red ink and Madonna added the caption: “Because sometimes soccer Moms need to be a…” In a second photo, the word “B**tch” had been swapped for “Queen” and she added: “And be treated like a…”

We have seen Mr. Blaine pull off some pretty amazing and intricate effects but this sounds like a miracle attempt.
Source: Madonna and Rocco reunite on vacation with David Blaine / Sunday World